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An East Valley religious coalition received a $100,000 grant from Dignity Health to provide aid for the homeless.
It’s amazing to think yet another year has come and gone. This time of year brings feelings of renewal, a chance for a fresh start and the hope that this year will be even better than the last. It’s also a time of personal reflection, goal setting and personal commitment to make the changes in our lives we long for. Unfortunately, the hard reality is that many of these changes, while noble and well intentioned, are temporary. As the months drift by and the daily grind gnaws at our resolve, we find ourselves drifting back into old habits. So how can we make this year different? While I can’t help with your fitness or nutrition goals, let me offer some advice on something that I do know about: setting and keeping financial goals.
Wasting no time after being sworn in, Gov. Doug Ducey immediately took the possibility of higher taxes off the table to balance the state budget, even on a temporary basis.
With the new year upon us, there are a host of issues state leaders likely will face in 2015.
Sticky cheeks, dirty hands, and smiling faces.
PHOENIX (AP) — New campaign-contribution limits added up to millions of additional dollars for some candidates in Arizona's election last month.
Mesa TV & Appliance salesman Brian Richardson has a problem: His customers can’t turn left into his driveway.
A federal judge late Friday voided state laws requiring groups to register before spending money on campaigns — and with it, the reports they're supposed to file on who is behind all that cash.
The recovery of home prices in Arizona appears to have all but stalled.
TUCSON -- Gov. Jan Brewer asked the Arizona Supreme Court Thursday to quash efforts by a minority of state legislators to effectively kill the expansion of the state's Medicaid program.
A Maricopa County Superior Court judge rejected efforts by Attorney General Tom Horne to kill charges that he violated state campaign finance laws in his 2010 election.
PHOENIX -- A Maricopa County Superior Court judge rejected efforts by Attorney General Tom Horne to kill charges that he violated state campaign finance laws in his 2010 election.
There is something about homeowners associations (HOA) that gets people riled up.
It’s not news when politicians try to get into our wallets. But this year, both the city of Phoenix and Maricopa Integrated Health System (MIHS) have crossed the decency line in their efforts to keep our money flowing their direction.
PHOENIX -- The Citizens Clean Elections Commission concluded Thursday there's reason to believe a video by the state's school chief paid for by taxpayers actually was designed to help his campaign for re-election.
But the odds are good that John Huppenthal will escape with little more than a fine.
The 3-1 vote came despite Huppenthal's personal plea to the panel that the purpose of the video, sent to 60,000 educators and posted on YouTube, was to deal with the "anxiety-ridden feedback from the education community'' that the Common Core standards the state adopted four years earlier were going to be trashed. Huppenthal said it was never done in an effort to salvage his campaign to be the Republican nominee for state school superintendent, a race he eventually lost to Diane Douglas.
In fact, he told commissioners, the video, produced by and paid for the state Department of Education, actually could be interpreted to hurt him since he did express support for math and English standards. "We knew, had known for some time, that I was, by supporting the standards, that I was digging a hole for myself deeper and deeper politically,'' Huppenthal said.
Commissioner Thomas Koester said most of the video, issued just two weeks before the Aug. 26 primary, probably fits within Huppenthal's role as the state's top school official. But he said where the message went off the tracks was when Huppenthal promised to work with the next governor "to fully review the standards in a series of open, public forums to ensure that we are implementing the standards that are best for Arizona students.'' And Huppental said that will give families "an opportunity fully voice their concerns.''
"I acknowledge what you're saying,'' Huppenthal responded. But he denied there was any political purpose in the message, saying his promise for hearings was his effort to ensure the standards were not simply jettisoned by the public.
Commissioner Louis Hoffman had his own concerns about the video and the timing.
He noted that Huppenthal had just been accused of flip-flopping on the his support of what had since been renamed the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards. Hoffman said the video could be seen as Huppenthal's attempt to address those criticism.
And then there was the timing of the Aug. 12 video.
"I'm very suspicious of this because it was done two weeks before the election,'' Hoffman said. "If it were merely a policy matter it could have been done earlier.''
But Huppenthal said the timing was related to the increasing criticism of the standards.
Thursday's vote essentially authorized Tom Collins, the commission's executive director, to conduct a full-blown investigation into the video and its costs. But Collins said he presumes that the inquiry likely will be short-circuited with what amounts to a deal for Huppenthal to pay a fine to end the matter.
Mitchell Laird, another member of the commission, said that might be the best outcome for all concerned.
"It's a really close call,'' he said of whether the video really amounts to a donation by taxpayers to Huppenthal's campaign.
Only Commissioner Steve Titla voted against proceeding, saying he thinks nothing that Huppenthal did broke the law.
With his political life cut short by his defeat in August, Huppenthal said after the hearing he's not looking for a fight.
"I'm anxious to get on with life,'' he said.
Q: Why are you running?
Q. Why are you running
Q: Why are you running?
PHOENIX -- Having won benefits for current of gay state and university employees, attorneys are back in court demanding the same for everyone hired in the future. And if they win, count on them to start going after cities, counties, school districts and all government employers in Arizona.
Tara Borelli of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund wants U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick to permanently void a 2009 Arizona law that says benefits like health insurance are available only to those who are married. Borelli, the lead counsel on the case, said gay employees need benefits for their partners and children just the same as those who are married.
But Assistant Attorney General Charles Grube, in his own legal filings, effectively is urging Sedwick to butt out.
"Domestic-partner health coverage is not a fundamental right,'' he told the judge.
He said that means state lawmakers were free to decide to pass a law saying that benefits are limited to those who are wed. Grube said that is a financial decision well within the powers of legislators.
Grube said because the state provides no benefits for any unmarried partners, gay and straight, there is no discrimination against anyone because of sexual orientation.
But Borelli said that ignores one key fact: Straight couples have the option to get those benefits by marrying; a 2008 voter-approved state constitutional amendment denies that same right to gays, thereby making those same benefits inaccessible.
And that remains the case in Arizona unless and until federal courts rule gays can wed.
Gov. Jan Brewer is defending the law as one based not on sexual orientation but on budget considerations. She told Capitol Media Services the state needed the money it was spending providing benefits to the partners of its gay workers -- benefits Sedwick blocked her from cutting.
Borelli, however, said the effects are minimal, saying gays make up just 0.2 percent of all state employees getting benefits.
Arizona first provided domestic-partner benefits in 2008 when then-Gov. Janet Napolitano ordered state personnel rules rewritten to expand the definition of who is a "dependent'' for purposes of getting benefits. Those rules, which did not specify the gender of the partner, required a showing of financial interdependence and an affidavit by the worker affirming there is a domestic partnership.
But in 2009, after Napolitano resigned to take a post in the Obama administration, the Republican-controlled Legislature approved, and Brewer signed, a state law narrowing the definition -- and specifically excluding unmarried couples.
Sedwick issued a preliminary injunction blocking the change, at least as it applies to gay employees.
The judge acknowledged the change in law, tucked into a provision of the state budget, is not discriminatory on its face. But he said the denial has to be examined in light of the ban on same-sex marriage.
"As a result, (the law) denies lesbian and gay state employees in qualifying domestic partnership a valuable form of compensation on the basis of sexual orientation,'' he wrote in 2010.
Sedwick has since given the case class-action status. That sets the stage for the fight over whether the law should be permanently blocked.
Grube told the judge there's no basis for such an order. He said any disparate impact on gays is the result not of this law but of the other statutes and constitutional provisions which bar gays from marrying.
On a more practical level, Brewer said there's the question of cost.
"I think we all know that Arizona was in dire shape financially,'' she said of her 2009 decision to sign the law voiding the change in rules.
"We had to make some tough choices,'' the governor continued. "I believe that was one area we could cut costs, just like we had to do in behavioral health or education.''
Borelli, however, gave Sedwick figures -- produced by the state -- that show the cost of benefits for the partners of gay workers now covered is less than 0.3 percent of the total program, with the cost of claims for children at about 0.01 percent.
Brewer also brushed aside questions of whether the state should reconsider now that its finances are vastly improved from 2009.
"I would tell you that, almost today, no one can afford insurance,'' saying that is a question that can be taken up by the next governor and the next crop of legislators.
Finances aside, Grube said there's a rational reason for lawmakers providing benefits to those who are married versus those who are not.
"Under Arizona law, married persons have a legal duty to supply support to their spouses,'' he told the judge.
"A married person who fails to provide a spouse with necessary medical attendance actually commits a crime,'' Grube continued. "There is no such criminal statute for unmarried persons.''
But Borelli noted it is the state itself that prohibits gays from marrying in the first place and being subject to laws governing marriage. Beyond that, she said this is not a matter of criminal law.
"Plaintiffs rely on family coverage as an important part of their compensation for the same reason as their heterosexual colleagues: to provide shelter and protection to their families from the potential extreme stress of untreated illnesses and attendant financial burdens,'' she wrote.
And that, she said, goes to the other part of her discrimination argument. She said the gay workers are doing the same job as their heterosexual counterparts.
Brewer had one more reason to justify the Arizona law.
"The federal government also does not provide insurance to domestic partners,'' she said.
Borelli said that's true. But she also said it's unnecessary since the federal government recognizes the marriages performed in states where that is legal, allowing gay employees to get benefits for their partners.
It is only in states like Arizona, she said, where that is an issue.
Q. Would you say your district is delivering quality services now and what, if any, changes would you make?
Having won benefits for current gay state and university employees, attorneys are back in court demanding the same for everyone hired in the future. And if they win, count on them to start going after cities, counties, school districts and all government employers in Arizona.
PHOENIX -- If the ongoing political debates about education funding have not convinced you, a new study might: Arizona is the sixth-worst place in the nation to be a teacher.
The report by WalletHub says the average starting salary for teachers, listed as $31,874 for 2012-13 school year by the National Education Association, is the 44th lowest of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia. And that ranking comes even after accounting for the lower cost of living here than many other places.
It's also not great for those who stay in the profession, the study says, with median salaries for all Arizona teachers at No. 48, also measured against the cost of living.
The pupil-to-teacher ratio, listed at 21.3 according to the National Center for Education Statistics, is worse than anywhere but Utah and California. It compared with a national average of 16.7.
And WalletHub cites NEA figures showing that Arizona spends only about $1,250 per state resident on education. Only Idaho comes in lower.
About the only thing in the WalletHub rankings that kept Arizona from being lower than 46th overall is that there's probably good job security here.
The personal finance website figures that Arizona will have among the higher percentages of school-age population of all the states by 2030.
More children equals more demand for teachers.
Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub staffer, said there's a reason these statistics matter.
Consider class size.
"If I have a child I know struggles with learning, then that's definitely something I want to take into consideration,'' she said. But Gonzalez said for some parents, class size won't matter.
Teacher salaries present a different issue, particular in Arizona's ability to recruit. "If this is a teacher right out of school looking for somewhere to teach, it might matter more to them than someone with a family and who can support themselves in other ways or with other people in part of their families,'' Gonzalez said.
One place Arizona is not in the Bottom 10 is in what WalletHub calls teacher wage disparity. Gonzalez said this is the difference between salaries at the 90th percentile level -- near the top -- and those at the 10 percentile level. That measures whether there's room for wage improvement.
Arizona is No. 38 nationwide.
The report comes as questions of school funding have taken center stage in both courtrooms and the gubernatorial race.
Key is the ruling by the Arizona Supreme Court that during the recession state lawmakers ignored a 2000 voter-approved mandate to adjust aid to schools each year for inflation.
The exact amount missed is still being litigated. But Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper said just resetting basic state aid to what it should have been had legislators complied with the law all along totals $317 million.
If and when the state comes up with that cash, that will make another $279 per pupil available, on top of the approximately $7,550 a year per student from all sources.
That does not count another $1.3 billion schools claim they are owed for the years the state ignored the inflation funding formula. While that would be a one-time infusion, it translates out to close to another $1,150 per student.
Both Democrat gubernatorial hopeful Fred DuVal and Republican Doug Ducey say they want to put more money in the classroom though they differ on how to do that.
READ THE WALLETHUB REPORT: http://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-states-for-teachers/7159/